Peter Attia, a man who once wanted to become a professional boxer, is now a renowned physician focusing on the science of longevity. Born on March 19, 1973, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, he is of Coptic Egyptian descent and is now 50 years old.
From Medicine to Marathons: A Journey of Dedication and Discovery
Attia received his B.Sc. degrees in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics from Queen’s University. He later attended Stanford University School of Medicine, where he received his M.D. After medical school, Attia spent five years at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, as a general surgery resident. He also spent two years at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at National Institutes of Health (NIH), in Bethesda, Maryland, as a surgical oncology fellow under Steven Rosenberg.
As his residency drew to a close, Attia joined the consulting firm McKinsey & Company in the Palo Alto office as a member of the Corporate Risk Practice and Healthcare Practice. In 2012, he co-founded and served as President of Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSI) with Gary Taubes. In 2014, Attia founded Attia Medical, PC, a medical practice focusing on the applied science of longevity and optimal performance.
He hosts the podcast The Peter Attia Drive, which primarily focuses on topics related to health and wellness, with a particular emphasis on the goals of extending health span and lifespan. The show regularly features well-established experts in their respective fields as guests. He is the author of the book “Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity” (with Bill Gifford), which “has been a runaway best seller since it was published this spring [of 2023].”
Intriguingly, Peter Attia is also the first person to make the round-trip swim from Maui and Lanai, in a time of 11 hours and 45 minutes. The round trip distance was just under 20 miles. This swim is considered dangerous due to known shark attacks, high winds in the afternoon, and strong currents. Despite these challenges, Attia successfully completed the swim, setting a record for this feat.
Balancing Nutrition and Fitness: A Daily Dietary Journey
Peter Attia’s diet has evolved over the years, and as of the time of the article, his dietary goals were to increase muscle mass and reduce body fat. Here’s what his daily food intake typically looks like:
Breakfast: Usually 8 eggs (4 whole, 4 egg whites) with toast and butter.
Protein shake: A shake comprised of 700 milliliters (24 ounces) of almond milk, 50 grams of protein, and frozen fruit.
Lunch: Typically a chicken salad with a variety of vegetables, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.
Dinner: Varies a lot, but he tracks his intake with an app to stay within his goals.
Supplements: He continues to take supplements like omega-3s, magnesium, etc. See below.
He aims to eat 2.2 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight (1 gram of protein per pound) and consumes between 2700 – 2800 calories per day. This equates to around 45 to 50 grams of protein 4 times per day. He tracks his protein and calorie intake using Layne Norton’s app called Carbon.
Shifting Perspectives: From Fasting to Preserving Muscle Mass
Peter Attia stopped fasting in 2020. He used to do a seven-day water-only fast once a quarter, and a three-day water-only fast once a month. However, he changed his stance on fasting due to the significant downside of decreasing muscle mass. Over a period of about three years, he lost about 5 kg (10 pounds) of lean mass. Despite exercising during periods of fasting, he found it impossible to maintain lean mass. He now believes that the trade-off is not worthwhile, especially at the extreme level he was practicing. He also emphasizes the importance of maintaining lean mass and long-term activity patterns, suggesting that if you’re in a caloric deficit, you should aim for two grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day or more to maintain muscle.
Comprehensive Health Support: A Deep Dive into Essential Supplements
Peter Attia takes a variety of supplements to support his health and wellness. Here are some of the supplements he takes:
- Omega-3s: Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that have various benefits for your body and brain. They are found in fish, such as salmon and mackerel, and in flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. Omega-3s are crucial for brain health and have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease.
- Magnesium: Magnesium is a mineral that’s crucial to the body’s function. It helps keep blood pressure normal, bones strong, and the heart rhythm steady. Adults who consume less than the recommended amount of magnesium are more likely to have elevated inflammation markers.
- Vitamin D3: Vitamin D3 is important for bone health, immune function, and inflammation reduction. It’s naturally produced in the skin in response to sunlight, but can also be consumed through supplements or foods like fatty fish and fortified dairy products.
- Vitamin K2: Vitamin K2 plays a crucial role in the body, helping blood to clot, reducing the risk of heart disease, and contributing to bone health.
- Zinc: Zinc is a nutrient that people need to stay healthy. It helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses. The body also needs zinc to make proteins and DNA, the genetic material in all cells.
- Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. It is primarily released by the pineal gland. As a supplement, it is often used for the short-term treatment of trouble sleeping such as from jet lag or shift work.
- Nicotinamide Mononucleotide (NMN): NMN is a derivative of niacin, and humans have enzymes that can use NMN to generate nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH). Because NADH is a cofactor for processes inside mitochondria, for sirtuins, and for PARP, NMN has been studied in animal models as a potential neuroprotective and anti-aging agent.
- Berberine: Berberine is a compound found in several plants including a group of shrubs called Berberis. It has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic effects. It also works as a powerful supplement to lower cholesterol.
- Pyrroloquinoline Quinone (PQQ): PQQ is a small quinone molecule which has the ability to be a REDOX agent, capable of reducing oxidants (an antioxidant effect) and then being recycled by glutathione back into an active form. It appears to be quite stable as it can undergo several thousand cycles before being used up, and it is novel since it associates with protein structures inside the cell (some antioxidants, mostly notably carotenoids like β-carotene and astaxanthin, are located at specific areas of a cell where they exert proportionally more antioxidant effects due to proximity; PQQ seems to do these near proteins like carotenoids do so at the cell membrane).
- Sulforaphane: Sulforaphane is a natural plant compound found in many cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale. It has been shown to have potent anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.
Four Pillars of Fitness: A Comprehensive Weekly Workout Guide
Peter Attia recommends a comprehensive exercise routine that targets four key pillars: Stability, Strength, Aerobic Efficiency, and Anaerobic Performance. Here’s the breakdown of his weekly workout recommendations:
Stability: One hour per week, split into 5 to 10-minute blocks done before other workouts.
Strength: Three 45 to 60-minute full-body workouts targeting all major muscle groups.
Aerobic Efficiency: Four 45 to 60-minute zone 2 cardio workouts.
Anaerobic Performance: One 30-minute VO2 max workout.
His weekly workout schedule might look like this:
Monday: 10 minutes stability, 60 minutes lower body strength
Tuesday: 10 minutes stability, 60 minutes zone 2
Wednesday: 10 minutes stability, 60 minutes upper body strength
Thursday: 10 minutes stability, 60 minutes zone 2
Friday: 10 minutes stability, 60 minutes lower body strength
Saturday: 10 minutes stability, 60 minutes zone 2, 30 minutes zone 5
Sunday: 10 minutes stability, 60 minutes zone 2, 60-minute upper body strength
He emphasizes that this is not a short-term program but a lifelong pursuit, and encourages individuals to become their own coach by giving full attention to every rep. He also suggests that stability training should come first, before strength training, to reduce the risk of injury and improve control.
Assessing Cardiovascular Health: A Comprehensive Guide to Diagnostic Tests and Lifestyle Balance
Peter Attia recommends several tests to assess the risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) and to determine the level of arterial damage present. Here are the tests he suggests:
- Lipid Panel: This includes non-HDL cholesterol, which he considers an important metric to predict risk.
- Lp(a): This should be measured at least once. If it’s elevated, he might look again, depending on certain interventions.
- apoB: This is another important metric for predicting risk.
- APOE (genotype): This is largely unrelated to apoB for the purpose of risk prediction.
- Homocysteine: This is an additional measurement that factors into how risk is managed.
- Uric Acid: This is another additional measurement that factors into how risk is managed.
- Thyroid Function: This is important for overall health and can impact cardiovascular risk.
- Iron and Ferritin: These are important for overall health and can impact cardiovascular risk.
- Blood Pressure Monitoring: He is aggressive in monitoring blood pressure as even slight elevations are important.
In terms of diagnostic tests to determine the level of arterial damage present, he recommends:
- Coronary Artery Calcium (CAC) Score: This is a quick CT scan of the heart without any intravenous contrast that looks at the amount of calcification in the coronary arteries. It’s a late stage of healing and a very advanced finding of disease.
- CT Angiogram (CTA): This is a more comprehensive test that comes with a higher cost and more radiation. It captures the calcification and gives a better sense of the luminal narrowing and the presence of soft plaque.
Balanced Approach to Longevity and Living Well
Peter Attia is the author of the bestseller “Outlive: The Science & Art of Longevity,” which focuses on the science of longevity and proposes a new approach to medicine, termed Medicine 3.0. This approach aims to proactively prevent chronic diseases and maintain better health deeper into old age, primarily through rigorous, detailed, and personalized monitoring and treatment of nutrition, sleep, exercise, and mental health.
Attia’s methods extend to his family as well. His children wear minimalist shoes and have standing desks at home. They also see their parents working out a lot, which helps create a mindset around being healthy.
Despite his intense focus on health and longevity, Attia maintains a balance in life. He enjoys food and even has a few drinks a week because he really likes tequila and mezcal.
Attia’s approach to health is not about avoiding death but about living a longer, better life. He acknowledges that there could be unforeseen circumstances that could end his life prematurely, but he won’t regret how hard he’s worked to try to live a longer, better life. He believes in controlling what he can control to improve the odds of getting the desired outcome.
My research indicates that as of 2023, Peter’s biological age is approximately 3-4 years less than his actual age. This is a decent result, but not the best. Interestingly, a few years ago, the difference between his biological and actual age was greater. Perhaps this is influenced by a delicate balance between (excessive?) physical activity and longevity?
A Russian longevity and hypnotherapy specialist, Dr. Alexander Blinkov, whom I personally know, shared that about twenty years ago, he was also into bodybuilding and had quite a lot of muscle mass. However, he then stopped playing these games and focused on health and longevity. He still has abs and a healthy body, but he’s no longer a bodybuilder.
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